Massachusetts Teacher Named 2017 National Teacher of the Year

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High School Humanities Teacher Sydney Chaffee will be the 2017 National Teacher of the Year

Washington, D.C. (April 20, 2017) - The Council of Chief State School Officers today announced that Sydney Chaffee, a high school teacher in Boston, MA is the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. 

Chaffee teaches humanities at Codman Academy Charter Public School, where she focuses on the intersection of history and literature to help her students learn from lessons of the past to make change in the world. Chaffee, who has taught for 10 years, believes education must be authentic and encourages her students to take risks by creating a safe environment in her classroom for diverse learners.

"I am honored to be the 2017 National Teacher of the Year," Chaffee said. "In the course of the next year, I hope to participate in a national conversation on how education can be a tool for social justice and empower students to stand up for themselves and create change."

The National Teacher of the Year program, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and presented by Voya Financial, Inc., identifies exceptional teachers in the country, recognizes their effective work in the classroom, engages them in a year of professional learning, amplifies their voices, and empowers them to participate in policy discussions at the state and national levels. 

As the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Chaffee will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers. Chaffee looks forward to sharing her belief that educators must take risks-on their students, on each other, and on themselves - in order to create powerful authentic learning that will allow students to grow and succeed.

"CCSSO is honored to support the nation's great teachers, and I congratulate Sydney Chaffee on this recognition," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. 

"Sydney believes all students deserve access to a high-quality education, and her approach to teaching demonstrates that belief. I look forward to the year ahead and all that parents, students, and fellow educators will learn from Sydney."

Every year, exemplary teachers from each state, the U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity are selected as State Teachers of the Year. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year is chosen by a selection committee composed of 19 renowned education organizations, which collectively represent more than 7 million educators. 

The selection committee said in a statement that, "Sydney is optimistic but honest, humble but direct, and puts students at the center of everything she does. She has an astounding depth of knowledge about the many issues facing students and teachers, and upholds others in her work. We look forward to her demonstrated reflective practice, humor, and message of social justice during her year as National Teacher of the Year. As she says herself, there is nothing more powerful than empowering young people."

"Sydney Chaffee represents the excellence in teaching that I encounter across the Commonwealth," said Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "What strikes me most about Sydney is her humility and willingness to try a variety of ways to advance her students' growth.  Where others might experience obstacles or feel discouraged, Sydney seeks opportunities to learn from her students and colleagues."

"We are all incredibly proud of Ms. Chaffee and thrilled to see a representative of Massachusetts' strong teaching force represented at the national level," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Ms. Chaffee's commitment to her students and relentless drive to continually improve her teaching is a model for all of us."

"Sydney's life work is teaching and the classroom she guides is as deeply engaging, intellectually stimulating and expansive in imagination and possibilities as any I have ever observed," wrote Thabiti Brown, Head of School at Codman Academy. "She brings the entire world to her students, and opens their minds and hearts in a way that few educators have the ability to do."

The finalists for 2017 National Teacher of the Year are Megan Gross (California), Athanasia Kyriakakos (Maryland), and Chris Gleason (Wisconsin). You can read more about the finalists here.  

Learn more about Sydney Chaffee, including her biography and photos, at


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

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